Fable II: The Wizard of Albion

 October 15, 2008 - Over the past few days, we've been examining the three elements that make up combat in Fable II. Previously, we've looked at hand-to-hand combat and ranged attacks. We finish off our look at combat with the most visually impressive of the three aspects, magic.

Before picking up Fable II, you need to try and forget everything you've learned about magic from other role-playing games. Fable II does not use mana. There is no cost for casting any spell. You could (and are encouraged to) tap the B button repeatedly to fire off a quick succession of attacks at enemies. Doing this, however, only casts level 1 spells. So while it can be effective, you'll also be doing minimal damage. To get the most from the magic system, you'll want to use an even mix of quick-firing spells and charging up for larger attacks.

Each spell in Fable II has five levels of power. This lays the foundation for Fable II's innovative spell selection system. You can slot a spell in each of the five levels (or up to the level of your most powerful spell) by holding down the Right Trigger. With the D-Pad, you can select spells for each level in-game, without having to go to the pause menu. Simple as that. Put a different spell in each slot or have all five levels be a single spell. The latter would be pretty boring, but who are we to judge?

The longer you hold down B in combat, the more your Will charges. And the more you charge, the higher you ascend up the spell levels. As you shift to the next level, you'll see the spell charging in your hands change, making it easy to recognize what will be unleashed if you release the B button. This allows for strategic play with magic. You may want to have Time Control as your level 1 spell, enabling you to slow time the instant combat starts. Then as enemies are running towards you in slow motion, you can charge up to a more powerful, higher-level spell.

Spells do not fundamentally change at higher levels. Shock electrocutes people whether it's a level 1 spell or a level 5. However, every spell has two uses. Cast a spell without touching the Left Thumbstick and you will cast an area affect attack. This will do less damage, but affect a wider area. The more potent the spell, the wider the area and the greater the damage. Hold B and push the Left Thumbstick towards an enemy and you will fire a direct attack at them. This can really mess a fellow up, but only hurts a single enemy.

Shock: Damages enemies with an electrical blast. The area effect attack sends a wave of electricity. The more powerful versions of shock can leave enemies convulsing for several seconds. Do enough damage and all that is left is a smoldering skeleton.

Inferno: Play with fire with either a single fireball thrown at an enemy or by creating a ring of fire to burn multiple enemies. The environment won't catch fire, but enemies will.

Time Control: The targeted and area effect versions of this power are vastly different. Targeting an enemy and using time control lets you dash behind them, leaving your opponent open for a strike. If you don't target an enemy, Time Control slows time for everyone around you. This is one of the most useful spells in your grimoire. The higher the level, the longer and more pronounced the effect.

Blades: Calls forth mystical blades to cut through your enemy. This is especially useful for targets running away, as the blades will track them down.

Vortex: Creates a powerful whirlwind that snatches up enemies and tosses them about. You'll do greater damage by targeting a single enemy, but it's more fun to send a whole room flying about.

Chaos: Summons the Mask of Madness to befuddle enemies. Confused enemies may attack their friend or even drop to scrub the floor (gotta get those bloodstains out). Targeted attacks extend the effect.

Force Push: Use an area effect attack to create a wall of energy around you, pushing back all nearby foes and giving you some breathing room. Or target a single enemy to knock them back. This is very useful when fighting near cliffs and ledges.

Raise Dead: Call forth the dead to fight as your allies. If cast near recently killed enemies, their spirits will rise to fight for you. Otherwise you get some less-impressive spirits. Use this spell when battling Balverines to even the playing field. Though this seems like a dark art, you don't become corrupt or evil by using this spell.

Those worried that casting magic will age you, fear not. This is not the case. Magic users glow with power, but don't turn old and crusty after tossing around a few fireballs. However, when you become truly powerful, the Will energy begins to glow in your veins, so much so that you'll start to looking like an escapee from TRON. This isn't nearly as dramatic a physical change as what comes to the corrupt -- but that's a discussion for another day.